Young, carefree and broke Malaysians hit a new low


Younger set not living within their means and are bankrupt before they are 30

 “When they start their own lives, they are not financially stable. Some want to get married.” – Datuk Abdul Rahman Putra Taha

They are young and carefree to the point of being careles, and have expensive tastes. Branded handbags, holidays to exotic places, fancy cars and lavish weddings all lead them into huge debts. By the age of 30, they are bankrupt. Some as young as 25 are among the shocking 60% of the 94,400 people declared bankrupt in the last four years.

PETALING JAYA: They lived the fast life, a life of Pradas and Guccis. When the cash is out, they max out on their credit cards.

Some even go as far as taking up personal loans to finance overseas trips, buying the latest expensive gadgets and holding lavish weddings.

And before they even turn 30, they are bankrupt.

Malaysia’s youth are seeing a worrying trend with those aged between 25 and 44 forming the biggest group classified as bankrupt.

They constituted almost 60% of the 94,408 cases reported from 2013 to August, according to the Insolvency Department.

Director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Putra Taha said there were multiple factors that contributed to the trend, but singled out that many of them just wanted to “start their own life”.

“When they start their own lives, they are not financially stable. Some want to get married, but if the in-laws ask for hantaran gifts such as cars or a house, they need the money.

“Their pay can be considered low but they need expensive gifts. Where else can they go other than applying for personal loans?” he said in an interview recently.

Abdul Rahman also listed the top four reasons why a borrower was declared a bankrupt.

“Car loans took up 26.63%, personal loans (25.48%), housing loans (16.87%), and business loans (10.24%),” he said.

He revealed that the total number of people declared bankrupt from 2013 stood at 296,712 as of August, with Selangor having the most at 72,114, followed by the Federal Territories (46,377), Johor Baru (41,179) and Penang (22,136).

He urged the public to manage their finances prudently to ensure they would not be burdened by debt.

At the same time, Abdul Rahman said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) was making huge efforts to ensure it would not be so easy for the young to obtain credit cards.

In response, he said the department was committed to ensuring that the Government meets its target, especially with the Voluntary Arrangement under the Insolvency Act 1967.

Almost 58,000 bankrupts have been cleared or had their bankruptcy annulled by the courts in about the last five years, marking the first phase of the Government’s efforts to reduce bankruptcy cases following amendments to several bankruptcy laws.

From 2013 to August 2017, the courts have cleared 1,356 cases while another 11,627 cases have been terminated upon annulment of the bankruptcy order.

A total of 44,950 cases were discharged via Insolvency Certificate from the director-general.

However, the Government is pushing to slash the number of people being declared bankrupt to just about 4,000 to 5,000 cases per year.

“The enforcement of the newly amended bankruptcy law began this year. If they meet our criteria, qualified borrowers will be automatically discharged as bankrupts three years from the date of filing of the Statement of Affairs (Penyata Hal Ehwal),” said Abdul Rahman

Under the amended laws, someone at risk of being declared a bankrupt can settle his debt without bankruptcy proceedings with a voluntary agreement.

“Our intention is to ensure that borrowers will be able to pay back their loans without undue suffering and creditors will get their money back, too.”

He said debtors must adhere to the agreed sum of contribution paid to the creditors and they must also file their pay and expenses slip statement every six months throughout the three-year period.

“As long as they fulfil the payment within the period, we will release their names,” said Abdul Rahman.

Under the new amendments of the Bankruptcy Act 1967, the Government has introduced a rescue mechanism with a single bankruptcy order to replace the receiving order and adjudication order from the courts as practised previously.

“This move ensures that creditors are also protected under the amended laws,” he said.

The Act has also paved the way for the setting up of the Insolvency Assistance Fund and a release from bankruptcy without objection by the creditors for certain groups of people.

These include social guarantors made bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act 1967, those who have died, those categorised as people with disabilities (OKU) by the Welfare Department and those certified by government medical officers as suffering from chronic or serious diseases.

The Star Malaysia by RAHIMY RAHIM rahimyr@thestar.com.my

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Malaysia’s economy: stronger but eroding purchasing power


The story is the same everywhere – the rising cost of living has not been accompanied by an increase in wages.

HERE we go again – another set of impressive growth figures. Bank Negara has announced Malaysia’s latest economic growth at a commendable 6.2% in the third quarter of 2017.

The pace of economic growth for the three months up to September was faster than the 5.8% registered in the second quarter of the year.

This growth rate was the fastest since June 2014.

On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted basis, the Malaysian economy posted a growth of 1.8% against 1.3% in the preceding quarter, according to the Statistics Department.

Malaysia’s robust economic growth has been attributed to private-sector spending and a continued strong performance in exports.

To quote Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim last Friday: “Expansion was seen across all economic sectors.”

But try explaining this impressive economic growth rate to the average salaried worker struggling to pay his monthly household bills.

Stretching the ringgit is especially great for those living in urban areas, and Malaysia is increasingly becoming urbanised.

The story is the same everywhere – the rising cost of living has not been accompanied by an increase in wages.

Compounding matters is the depreciation of the ringgit, reducing the purchasing power of the ordinary folk. They can’t buy the same amount of food as they used to previously.

Employers are being forced to cut operating costs to match declining profits.

Job security is becoming paramount. Many are fearful of losing their jobs, as companies cut cost to cope with the challenging business landscape.

And the reality is that many companies are not hiring, as evident from the unemployment rate of 3.4%.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has cautioned that more people would be out of a job this year due to the current economic challenges.

Apart from the challenging landscape, technology has disrupted several brick-and-mortar businesses, forcing them to change their way of doing business.

According to MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, economic challenges will compel bosses to review their workers’ requirements.

While official statistics show that the economy is charting a strong growth path, the trickle-down effect is not being felt.

Why is the sentiment on the ground different from what the politicians and officials are telling us? Why is there a disconnect in the economy?

Are the figures released by the government officials more accurate and authoritative compared with the loud grumblings on the ground that are anecdotical in nature devoid of proper findings?

We hear reports of supermarkets and hypermarkets closing down, but could that be because their business model no longer works as more Malaysians turn to online shopping, with e-commerce companies announcing huge jumps in traffic?

It is the same with the malls – retail outlets are reporting lower sales and this is compounded by the fact that there is an oversupply of malls.

International restaurant chains such as Hong Kong’s dim sum outlet Tim Ho Wan and South Korean bakery Tous Les Jours and South Korean barbeque restaurant Bulgogi Brothers have ceased operations.

But then again, it could be that their offerings and prices had failed to compete effectively against the local choices.

According to the central bank, demand is anchored in private-sector spending.

“On the supply side, the services and manufacturing sectors remain the key drivers of growth,” Muhammad said.

Looking ahead, the governor said that the economy this year is poised to register strong growth and likely to hit the upper end of the official target of 5.2%-5.7%.

The trickle-down effect is not being felt simply because there is uneven growth in the various sectors of the economy.

The property sector, which provides the biggest multiplier effect, continues to be in the doldrums.

The weak ringgit has had a big impact on the price of food, especially processed food and beverages that make up 74.3% of Malaysian household spending.

It was reported that Malaysia had imported a whopping RM38bil worth of food between January and October last year.

In recent weeks, the ringgit has strengthened to about RM4.16 against the US dollar. But it is still far from RM3.80 to the dollar and the outlook of the currency remains uncertain.

We can’t even hold our heads up against the Thai baht and Indonesian rupiah – two currencies that have appreciated against the ringgit.

The headline economic numbers are showing good growth, but Malaysians’ purchasing power has dropped and our living standards have eroded. That is the bottom line. We are living in denial if we do not admit this.

This column first appeared in StarBiz Premium.
Source: On the beat by Wong Chun Hai, TheStaronline

 

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Goodbye Motorola! How Chicago’s greatest tech company fell to earth?


Under the Galvin family, Motorola had soaring achievements. This was the
company, remember, that invented the cellphone. Those days are over.
What went wrong?  
Click below and Scroll or arrow down to keep reading.

Prospering with Belt and Road to reap the benefits of China’s initiative


Malaysia is one of 64 countries to reap the benefits of China’s initiative.

CAN money grow on fruit trees?

Yes, that is as far as Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek is concerned.

After witnessing the signing of a deal worth US$1.53bil (RM6.65bil) between Malaysia’s AgroFresh International and China’s Dashang Group for the export of local Cavendish bananas and tropical fruits to China, he said:

“Money does grow on fruit trees if our agriculture products could open up China’s market.”

The deal was part of the nine memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and agreements, with value totalling more than US$7.22bil (RM31.26bil), which were signed between Malaysian and Chinese companies on May 14.

But Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, International Trade and Industry Minister II, sees more money flooding in once Malaysia is linked up with other Asean nations, China and Europe via rail connection under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, now termed as the New Silk Road project.

“Our trade figures can jump by three to four folds once Malaysia can export and import goods to our major trade partners (such as China, Europe and Middle East) overland via rail systems,” he tells Sunday Star.

Both ministers are among Cabinet members in the Malaysian delegation led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing from May 14 to 15.

Malaysia is one of the 64 countries outside China that have benefited from the Belt and Road Initiative, propounded by Chinese President Xi Jinping in the autumn of 2013.

One project to be launched soon will be the RM55bil East Coast Rail Link. Examples of existing projects include Xiamen University and the deepening of Kuantan Port.

At the opening ceremony of the forum, Xi injected fresh impetus to his pet project by announcing hundreds of billions in new funds for infrastructure investment in Belt and Road countries that span Asia, Middle East and Europe.

According to some estimates, Chinese funds allocated for investing in Belt and Road countries – which include several exiting funds announced since 2013 – total around US$900bil (about RM4 trillion) now.

“Model of regional cooperation”

From Mongolia to Malaysia, Thailand to Pakistan and Laos to Uzbekistan, many projects, including high-speed railways, bridges, ports, industrial parks, oil pipelines and power grids, are being built, Xi said.

Since 2013, Chinese private businesses have invested more than US$60bil (RM260bil) in countries along the Belt and Road, in addition to the US$50bil invested by the Chinese government.

Xi’s speech also reveals that China will expand China-Europe railway cargo services, which are stirring up excitement in European nations – particularly Britain.

Belt-road: Ong signing Belt and Road MoU with Vice Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission of China Zhong Yong on May 13, 2017. Witnessing are Najib and China’s Premier Li Keqiang.

Calling his brand of globalisation as “project of the century” to achieve a win-win situation for all, Xi has committed to importing US$2 trillion (RM8.7bil) of goods from the 64 Belt and Road countries – many of which are under-developed and impoverished nations hungry for infrastructure and industrial investments.

The Chinese leader’s pledge of “non-interference” with the domestic politics of other countries is comforting, given that there are concerns that China could aim to be a hegemony with its economic and military might.

“What we hope is to create a big family where we can co-exist harmoniously,” Xi said last Sunday in his speech that also focused on connectivity in policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people.

The forum is by far the most important and largest meeting on the Belt and Road Initiative since 2013.

About 130 countries were represented at the forum and they accounted for two thirds of the world’s population. Their combined gross domestic product accounts for 90% of the world’s total, according to Xinhua.

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, regards the Belt and Road Initiative as “a shining model for regional collaboration, development and growth”.

“This initiative respects the differences between countries and their various paths for development, not imposing a specific plan or ideological framework, but seeking to create common ground for cooperation and mutual benefit,” Schwab told Xinhua.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, also told Xinhua: “China will play a very important role in multi-lateralism with the Belt and Road. The initiative reflects a new model of international cooperation and interaction with mutually beneficial cooperation through the connection of policies and development strategies.”

And Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, shared: “The initiative goes far beyond the economic strategy of any single country or region. Its mission is to make the world more innovative, dynamic, and equal.”

Big step: Fernandes is excited that China has allowed AirAsia to be the first low-cost carrier to set up shop in the Middle Kingdom.

AirAsia deal – another first in China

On the sideline of the forum, Malaysian and Chinese leaders took the opportunity to clinch more agreements that brought bilateral ties to another new high.

While the deals signed last November were far more than this round and higher in total value, the Chinese Government continued to grant “first” to Malaysia. This was reflected in a project given to Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, group chief executive officer and founder of AirAsia Bhd. Soon, the sky will see AirAsia China.

“It is the first time a foreign airline is given permission to establish and operate a low-cost carrier in China. We are the first country to be granted such licence,” Najib told reporters at the conclusion of his visit to China.

AirAsia is establishing a joint venture with China Everbright Group, with an initial stake of 22%. However, AirAsia may raise its stake in future.

China Everbright is a government-owned financial services conglomerate, which is a major shareholder in China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings Ltd and the Henan Government Working Group.

The plan is to set up AirAsia China to be based in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, to ply domestic and international flights.

“Tony Fernandes was very excited because he was able to meet the top transport and aviation officials, whom he could not secure appointments with previously. He has been working on this project for years,” a minister told Sunday Star.

Other Cabinet ministers are also upbeat after attending the Belt and Road Forum.

“I have witnessed the fruits of the close diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China, and between Najib and Xi Jinping during this trip,” says Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who signed a MoU on infrastructure cooperation with China.

“In China, economic developments are influenced by government policies. Now that our leaders have good ties with China, it is very timely for Malaysian businessmen to enter China, and vice versa,” he tells Sunday Star.

Important talks: Liow (second from left) leading a Malaysian delegation at a meeting with his Chinese counterpart at China’s Transport Ministry in Beijing on May 12 morning. From left are Transport Ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Chua Kok Ching, MCA vice president Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung and Fernandes.

“We have to promote economic growth fast enough so that we can harvest the fruits of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“The opportunities for Malaysia to develop the infrastructure and boost economic growth would not be available if not for the Belt and Road Initiative pushed forward by China,” he adds.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong observes: “There are quite a number of business-to-business MoUs signed during this trip, in addition to the nine witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“I was also invited to attend many discussions and meetings, sometimes I had to have many meals a day! (as discussions were held over meals).”

Wee, whose ministerial portfolio covers development of Chinese small and medium enterprises (SMEs), has personally requested Ma to reduce charges for Malaysian SMEs when they use Alibaba’s platform to sell products.

Ma, an e-commerce wizard and China’s second richest man, is expected to give consideration to the proposal as he has pledged to help Malaysia develop its digital economy. Ma will set up the Asean data centre in Malaysia before the end of the year.

Analysing Belt and Road Initiative, Shabery Cheek says: “Belt and Road is a different form of cooperation from other pacts, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and World Trade Organisation (WTO). Those emphasised on what goods were tax-free and what were not, which sectors to open up and which could not. Essentially, they focused on how to protect the self-interests of individual countries.

“However, the Belt and Road talks about infrastructure networking, which is very important. They take the cue from the ancient Silk Road, which was not only a channel to transport goods, but also to spread Islam and Buddhism. That is a great thing.”

Source: Sunday Star by Ho Wah FoonTho Xin Yi

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What concerns Malaysians most ?


Supermarket shopping food

THE biggest concern among Malaysians, as we head towards the general election, is the cost of living. It’s as simple as that.

There have been plenty of political and religious side shows, but for many Malaysians, regardless of race, settling the many bills each month is what worries them the most.

Although Malaysia remains one of the cheapest countries to live in, its citizens have been spoilt for too long.

We are so used to having so many food items subsidised, including sugar, at one time, to the point that some of us have had difficulties adjusting ourselves.

Our neighbours still come to Malaysia to buy petrol, because ours is still cheaper than theirs.

But, as in any elections, politicians will always promise the heavens to get our votes. One of the promises, we have already heard, is the abolishment of the Goods and Services Tax.

No doubt that doing away with GST would appeal to voters, but seriously, even the opposition politicians calling for this are aware that it is a counter-productive move.

In the words of Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, a highly-respected retired government servant, “it is too much of a fairy tale.”

The danger, of course, is that populist electoral pledges are always appealing, even if they are not rational.

Malaysia cannot depend on just about two million tax payers to foot the bill in a country of over 30 million people. It is unfair and unsustainable.

Taxing consumption gives more stability to revenue because income tax is regarded as highly volatile, as it depends very much on the ups and downs of businesses, according to Mohd Sheriff. When the market is soft, revenue collection always sees a dip.

For the government, which has already been criticised for having such a huge civil service, without GST, it could even mean its workers may not get paid when there is a downturn in the economy.

In the case of Malaysia, we have lost a substantial amount of revenue following the drop in oil price.

So, when politicians make promises, claiming plugging leakages is sufficient to end GST, it is really far-fetched and irresponsible.

The Malaysian tax system needs to continue to be more consumption-oriented to make it recession-proof, and, more importantly, the tax net just has to be widened. The bottom line is that, it is grossly unfair for two million people to shoulder the burden.

The government has done the right thing by widening the tax base and narrowing the fiscal deficit. The move to implement GST, introduced in 2014, has been proven right.

GST is needed to provide a strong substitute as a tax consumption capable of off-setting revenue loss from personal and corporate tax.

Beginning next month, India will join nearly 160 countries, including Malaysia, in introducing GST. Like Malaysia, when GST was first introduced, plenty of loud grumblings and doubts have rolled out.

Unlike Malaysia’s flat 6% across the board, India is introducing a more complicated four-tier GST tax structure of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%, with lower rates for essential items and highest for luxury and demerits goods that would also attract additional cess.

In Singapore, GST was introduced on April 1, 1994, at 3%. The rate was increased to 4% in 2003, then 5% in 2004. It was raised to 7% on July 1, 2007.

Some politicians came under fire recently for purportedly calling for the abolishment of GST, however, some others clarified that they had merely called for a reduction in the tax’s percentage.

Another top opposition politician has come out as the strongest opponent of GST, reportedly saying the claim that Malaysia needs GST is false.

Some other politicians have described GST as regressive, but have not come out with clear ideas on how it should be tackled.

Nonetheless, the ruling party should not make light of these electoral promises.

For many in the urban middle class, they feel the squeeze the most.

They have struggled against the rising cost of living, paying house and car loans, and earning deep levels of debt, as one report aptly put.

The middle class, consisting of over 40% of Malaysians, is also in the income tax bracket, it must be noted.

Last year, an economist was quoted saying that 2016 was a year of a shrinking urban middle class and a happy upper class.

Shankar Chelliah, an associate professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said that the Malaysian middle class shrank in metropolitan centres across the country, and that most of its members would end the year almost 40% poorer than they were in 2015.

He said this would be due to the withdrawal of cooking oil and sugar subsidies, depreciation of the ringgit, decrease in foreign inflows and increase in outflows, among other factors.

For many in this middle class range who do not qualify for BR1M handouts, the government clearly has to come up with a range of programmes which can relieve them of these burdens.

It isn’t race or religious issues that will appeal to voters – they want to know how they can lead better lives, and if the opposition thinks contentious issues will translate into votes, they will be in for a surprise.

It is true that the heartland will continue to deliver the crucial votes, and the ruling party will benefit from this, but Malaysia has also become more urban and more connected.

At the end of the day, it is the bread and butter issues that matter most. Let’s hear some solid ideas and programmes which will reduce the burden of Malaysians.

By Wong Chun Wai On the beat, The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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Chinese car-maker Geely to make Malaysia its global hub, help Proton drive into future

PUTRAJAYA: The entry of a major Chinese carmaker into Proton Holdings Bhd will not only ease its financial woes, but also bring fresh

 

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Chinese car-maker Geely to make Malaysia its global hub, help Proton drive into future


PUTRAJAYA: The entry of a major Chinese carmaker into Proton Holdings Bhd will not only ease its financial woes, but also bring fresh capacity to the group’s underutilised factories.

Zhejiang Geely Automotive Co Ltd plans to turn Malaysia into its global hub to manufacture all of its right-hand drive cars, including its premium Volvo brand.

Geely will take a leadership role in production, sales and marketing. Proton will be responsible for distribution of the brand in Malaysia.
These were among the highlights mentioned at the signing ceremony in Putrajaya between DRB-Hicom, the parent company of Proton, and Geely.

Proton and Geely yesterday signed an agreement that would see Geely take a 49.9% stake in Proton. Both parties have not finalised the price Geely would pay for the stake.

Through the partnership, Geely executive vice-president and chief financial officer Daniel Li said Geely would focus on assisting Proton to sell 500,000 cars in Malaysia and around the region by 2020.

He said Geely would be contributing technology, talent and money to Proton. These include platform-sharing that would see the development of Proton’s first-ever SUV model from Geely’s best selling model – the Boyue.

DRB-Hicom group managing director Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar said in the competitive automotive industry, partnership among carmakers globally was common.

A partnership would also further expand Proton’s reach to other markets and give it better economies of scale.

“This partnership with Geely will create more jobs in Proton,” he told reporters yesterday.

Proton has a workforce of about 10,000 which produces about 100,000 cars a year. In 2016, sales of Proton cars dropped 30% to 72,290 units from 102,174 previously.

The company reported a loss of almost RM1bil last year.

Proton’s Tanjung Malim plant, which is designed to produce a million cars every year, will be made a new manufacturing hub for Geely.

Syed Faisal said Proton would relocate its entire production from Shah Alam to Tanjung Malim within five years.

Despite the entry of a new foreign partner, Proton will maintain its national car status. This means its industrial linkages, including vendors and dealers, will not be affected by the change in shareholding.

Under the heads of agreement signed between DRB-Hicom and Geely, the Chinese carmaker will take a 49.9% equity interest in Proton and also a controlling stake in Lotus, the British sportscar maker, from Proton.

No financial details were disclosed in the sale of a stake in Proton, while for Lotus, Geely would be paying £51mil (RM284mil) for a 51% stake in Lotus.

Syed Faisal said DRB-Hicom planned to sign a definitive agreement with Geely in July.

Also present at the signing ceremony was Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, who clarified that with the partnership with Geely in place, Proton would need to repay its RM1.25bil soft loan from the Government.

As part of the conditions for the soft loan, Proton was required to collaborate with a well-known strategic partner.

The requirement to collaborate with a well-known strategic partner was imposed on Proton as part of the conditions issued by the Government for its approval of the RM1.25bil soft loan to Proton, in which a bulk of the money was used to pay its vendors.

Separately, Johari said Proton was entitled to a RM1.1bil reimbursement from the Government for its RM3.5bil spent on research and development in the past.

Johari also said there would be no more “subsidy” for Proton from now on, and that the Government would no longer have a golden share in Proton with Geely entering into a partnership with the national carmaker.

Source: The Star by intan farhana zainulandizwan idris

‘Geely to help Proton drive into future’

IPOH: The decision by Proton to embark on a partnership with China’s Zheijiang Geely Automotive Co Ltd is timely because cars are predicted to be next in line to undergo sweeping innovations.

International Trade and Industry Minister II Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said that in light of Industrial Revolution 4.0, bringing in Geely as Proton’s strategic partner would ensure the Malaysian company’s survival as cars increasingly adopt digital technology.

Industrial Revolution 4.0, or Industry 4.0, is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies which include cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and cloud computing.

“After attending the Hannover Messe, the world’s biggest trade fair for industrial technology, I learned that self-driving cars are the next big thing.

“This means that you are looking at a future where cars will have no steering wheel.

“With just the touch of a panel, the car will bring you to your destination,” Ong said after witnessing the swearing-in of the new committee of the Perak Chinese Cemeteries Management Association yesterday.

He said Geely would be Proton’s channel to embracing technological innovations.

“I’m not saying to expect Proton to be a frontliner in this, but at least with a strategic partner it can move along with the times,” he added.

He said Geely would also open a new market for Proton, which was important for the national carmaker’s survival.

He said it was not a decision made purely in favour of China.

“Over the years, it’s been no secret that Proton accumulated losses and will need a big market to cater to in order to settle all the debts. This is the reality.

“Proton only narrowly met its sales target of 580,000 units last year, while Chinese brands sold 28 million units,” he said.

In view of its small volume, Ong said it would be difficult for Proton to fund sophisticated research and development initiatives.

“We need a larger market for things to work out. The Industrial Revolution 4.0 is all about innovation. We can’t do it ourselves, which is why working with advanced nations is our best bet,” he added.

The Star by Amanda Yeap

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Two virtual coin get-rich schemes red-flagged by Malaysian Central Bank


GEORGE TOWN: Two more popular financial schemes in Penang have been red-flagged by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

A check on the financial consumer alert list yesterday showed MBI International Sdn Bhd and Mface International Sdn Bhd to be the latest additions.

Both are subsidiaries of MBI Group International, a company with investors worldwide, many of them from China.

To date, 302 companies have been listed under the BNM financial consumer alert list, for suspicion of not adhering to relevant laws and regulations administered by BNM in their operations.

Under the Financial Services Act 2013, individuals or businesses involved in illegal financial activities can be fined up to RM50mil and jailed for 10 years.

When contacted by a Chinese daily, MBI International chairman Tedy Teow’s special assistant Alfa said he did not think that the company would face any problem.

“And it is unnecessary for us to hold a press conference to explain the situation to our investors.

“We are always doing our work and we believe that our investors can see how we are performing so far,” he told Sin Chew Daily.

An investor, H.L. Teoh, said he put in RM22,500 early this year and was given 10,000 game redemption credits.

“Actually, I can start selling it every six months, but I was advised to wait for it to grow bigger in three years.

“When you have lots of credit, it is like having a lot of virtual shares.

“Now, I will have to wait for further instructions from the company before my next course of action,” he said.

Members are allowed to spend their loyalty points, which are converted from virtual money or coins, in exchange for goods and services at affiliated companies, including a supermarket, restaurants, a gym and even a durian stall.

Meanwhile, a press conference called by a branch representative of another controversial financial scheme operator, JJPTR, was cancelled at the last minute.

Press members in Penang had received an invitation from a man known only as Lim at 8.30am yesterday.

However, no reason was given for the cancellation.

JJPTR has been grabbing headlines in the past few weeks since its founder Johnson Lee claimed that the company had lost US$400mil (RM1.738bil) due to a purported “hacking job”.

Lee and two of his top aides have been detained by the police to facilitate investigations following several police reports lodged against JJPTR.

In another case, 19 Chinese nationals lodged police reports in Kuala Lumpur against another multi-level marketing company, claiming that they had lost hundreds of thousands of ringgit.

They claimed to have lost between 100,000 yuan (RM62,536) and 700,000 yuan (RM437,754) since investing in the scheme by Monspace last year.

Founded in 2014, Monspace is listed as a multi-level marketing company, according to the Com­panies Commission of Malaysia.

In an immediate response, Monspace said it would take legal action against any group or individual making defamatory statements against it.

The company said in a statement to the media that it was functioning professionally and had engaged a law firm to keep track of statements made about it.

Source: The Star/ANN by Crystal Chiam Shiying

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